Jamaica is expecting that it will see 340,000 fewer tourists than it had projected this year in light of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that has triggered travel restrictions across the globe.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, which is examining the 2020/21 Estimates of Expenditure, that industry projections for Fiscal Year 2020/21 have been revised downward.
Jamaica has issued travel restrictions for Italy, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Iran. “Current global situations require for us to review some of our projected out-turns as well as our market strategy and, perhaps, to cautiously examine where and how we apply the budgetary arrangements with regards to advertising and promotions for the fiscal [year],” he said.
Bartlett informed that the tourism industry’s estimated gross earnings in fiscal year 2020/21 are now projected at $3.69 billion, corresponding with visitor arrivals of 4.26 million, which includes stop over arrivals of 2.73 million and cruise arrivals of 1.53 million. The previous 2020/21 projections were $4.25 billion in earnings, with arrivals estimated at 4.6 million, inclusive of stopover arrivals at 2.96 million, and cruise arrivals at 1.65 million.
Bartlett noted that while the industry has grown 5.2 per cent to date for the 2019/20 fiscal year, which is consistent with overall projections, the Government is conscious of the possible impact on bookings as well as aviation activities and the country’s capacities if COVID-19 escalates.
“The Budget, this year (2020/21), reflects overall the intention to enable growth. But you would appreciate that this new projection would achieve a flat rate of growth. So we would just be about 1.1 per cent, over last year. Our growth will be driven, however, by very judicious market arrangements focusing primarily on our three big markets that are the traditional North American markets and Western Europe, and South America, that we will be putting a new focus on,” he said.
The Tourism Minister also disclosed that he will meet with the cruise lines tomorrow, regarding bookings. “After which, we will have a better sense of how things are looking down the road. We are talking with our partners to make sure that there is consensus on the way forward. The business of ensuring that life continues, despite coronavirus, is a serious one,” he said.
Amid health concerns since the outbreak of the virus, cruise lines travelling to Jamaica recently have either been restricted from docking or its passengers prevented from disembarking. Last week, the MSC Meraviglia was refused entry to Jamaica by the Ministry of Health and Wellness when it was learned that the vessel, which was heading to Ocho Rios, St. Ann, had a sick, quarantined person on board. In addition, Italian passengers were not allowed to disembark the Costa Luminosa of the Carnival Cruise Lines in Ocho Rios. Bartlett said he will be accompanying Health and Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, to meet with representatives of both cruise lines. In the meantime, he informed of the establishment of a steering committee – the Stakeholders Crisis Management Team – which has been working to develop a protocol for how persons are to conduct themselves in hotels, in light of the COVID-19 threat.
“The tourism industry is being prepared, firstly with public education, so that every single person in the industry is going to be aware of what this Coronavirus is about. We will be using all sorts of public relations [strategies] to get the messages across. It’s about educating in terms of hygienic practices; the whole business of washing your hands and ensuring that you don’t touch your face, and when you cough, what you do,” Minister Bartlett said.